Shut illegal meat, pet markets to contain coronavirus: Wildlife groups urge health minister

New Delhi, Mar 26 (PTI) A group of animal protection organisations on Thursday wrote to Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, urging him to shut illegal meat and pet markets in view of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The People for Animals (PFA), Humane Society International/India (HSI/India), Mercy for Animals India Foundation (MFA), Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations (FIAPO) and Ahimsa Trust urged the minister to take immediate action against markets that do not follow the food safety guidelines, to prevent the emergence of novel diseases and spread of COVID-19.

'COVID-19 is said to have emerged from a meat and wildlife market in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. In just a few months, the virus has infected hundreds of thousands and killed over 14,000 people world over,' their joint letter to the minister read.

Gauri Maulekhi, Trustee, People for Animals, said, 'Increase in industrial slaughter and factory farming of animals, unchecked wildlife trade and crowding of various species of animals in close confinement has been an invitation to deadly epidemics.' 'The connection is unmistakable. Let's learn from our mistakes. We are hopeful that the Ministry of Health undertakes the suggested measures to rectify this crisis and safeguard this country's health.' The animal rights organisations said three out of four emerging pathogens affecting humans over the past decade have originated from animals or animal products as per the Food And Agriculture Organisation.

A study carried out in Nepal found that raw meat in less developed countries is easily contaminated from external sources such as handling and processing of the meat with knives, hands, and other tools, they said.

The absence of regulations relating to livestock production leads to intensive, crowded rearing, unnatural diets, antibiotic abuse and various other practices that have lead us into COVID-19 crisis, they said. PTI GVS KJ